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Cold conditions up the difficulty at Fort Drum’s Mountain Winter Challenge


FORT DRUM — The fiendish freeze and whipping winds on post Wednesday for the annual Mountain Winter Challenge were all too familiar to those who know the 10th Mountain Division’s history.

From the frigid mountain ridges of Italy in World War II to the current day high-altitude locations of Afghanistan, the unit has seen its share of cold.

“One of the strengths of the 10th Mountain Division is that we can go, fight and win in these conditions,” said Maj. Lucas R. Connolly, of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, one of the event’s organizers.

Thirty-eight teams took part in multiple events during the day involving snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, pulling a weighted sled and target shooting.

“Basically, carrying on the history and lineage of the division by demonstrating that this is a capability that we can maintain,” Maj. Connolly said.

In a brief stop between events, Lt. Yevgen Gutman admitted he was trying to adjust to his icy surroundings.

“You can feel it,” he said.

Lt. Gutman’s teammates, Sgt. Zane C. Zornes and Spc. Thomas Cox, had simple advice.

“Put your head down and drive on,” Spc. Cox said.

Among the steps the lieutenant said his team from the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team planned to mitigate the conditions were slowing their pace near the ends of runs, lowering their heart rate before the shooting events. An increased heart rate or shiver could mean a miss, and a critical time penalty.

Maj. Connolly estimated the average temperature during the competition was 16 degrees below zero.

“Not only are the competitors facing off against each other and against the time clock, but against Old Man Winter out here,” he said.

The cold was a change of pace for 1st Lt. Trevor H. Smith, a Texas native who serves with the division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team at Fort Polk, La.

Before his first trip to post for the competition, Lt. Smith said, his flight was delayed: The area around the Southern installation got slammed by 2 inches of snow.

The infantryman found snow on a different scale after arriving in the north country.

“A lot more,” Lt. Smith said.

The event, one of four seasonal athletic challenges on post each year, will finish today.

Video from the event can be seen at

Mountain Winter Challenge at Fort Drum
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